Are the service academies more prestigious than the Ivy Leagues?

The USAFA reports the 25th% ACT as 29 & the 75th% ACT as 33 for the class that entered Fall 2017.

The USMA at West Point reports SAT middle 50% range as 1185-1400.

The USNA at Annapolis reports 1150-1370 as the SAT middle 50% range.

Service academy applicants also have strict physical health & fitness requirements.

Regardless of what any family believes about the efficacy of their involvement and influence, one of the basic things the congressional panels are ferreting out is whose dream this is and just how “involved” the family is and has been during the application process. It is more likely that the candidates you described were appointed in spite of rather than because of that family involvement. The degree of “competitiveness” mentioned in the quote above refers to the strength of the applicant pools in the various districts (numbers applying and degree of qualification in those pools), not to, say, any influence the family believes they might have with any congressional member or any special knowledge they think they might have that would give their kid a leg up. The process, though long and tedious with many moving parts, is designed to be able to be completed without parental assistance; that’s why each candidate is assigned a Field Force Representative (FFR/Army) or a Blue and Gold Officer (BGO/Navy) to answer all questions and shepherd the candidate through. These are the only resources any applicant needs to complete this process successfully. How independently the candidate navigates the gauntlet is one of the first tests of his/her readiness for the leadership required by an officer–and the application IS a test. Once at an academy, that cadet or mid is going cold-turkey without any parental assistance whatsoever. This comes as a very rude awakening for some and accounts for a lot of the drops on R-Day, during basic training, and during the first academic year (attrition is high at the academies). The armed forces require zero assistance from parents or families to produce officers and do not allow them to be part of the academy education and training process. The sooner the applicant embraces this and shows his/her ability to navigate solo, the better. The academies graduate no snowflakes.

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Because many lurk on these forums, I want to emphasize a few things:

  1. No family gets a kid into a service academy. The kid stands alone in front of those congressional panels, and there is nowhere in any part of this process where the family counts for diddly squat. The academies do not care who your family is or where you come from. There are no development admits either as the academies are funded by our taxes and do not charge tuition/room/board. By law, access to this path must be equally available to all who are interested. It is the most egalitarian college admissions process out there. Appointments are based on a Whole Candidate Score (WCS) comprising academics, fitness, and leadership. Candidates get ranked and re-ranked throughout the process as each part of the application is complete. Those with the most points get the envelopes. Is it perfect? Of course not, but no points are given for anything but what the candidate brings to the table.
  2. The hoops are the exactly the same for every applicant. Any unbelievable help given to a candidate will end up being a tremendous disservice when they have to stand naked (literally) and on their own the day they step foot on those posts. Did the parent track all the parts? Did the parent make calls and ask the questions? Did the parent stay on top of the kid every second managing every appointment and submission? Did the parent request the transcripts, and LORs? Did the parent schedule test dates? A "yes" to any of these goes into the negative column, not the positive. It is absolutely possible (and desirable) for a kid to do this all on his/her own, and THAT candidate is the one best prepared to face the rigors of military life.

No one should be afraid to apply because s/he thinks s/he doesn’t have the right connections or help or because they live in a district where there are many qualified applicants and the chances seem slim. A kid can do this if s/he is determined, and if that kid is very determined and very indendent, s/he has the start of what it makes to be an officer.

Please try not to read into my relatively simple response. First, if you do not believe you can coach a child to answer those questions ." Did the parent track all the parts? Did the parent make calls and ask the questions? Did the parent stay on top of the kid every second managing every appointment and submission? Did the parent request the transcripts, and LORs? Did the parent schedule test dates? " correctly your on another planet. Check out post on helicopter parents.
Otherwise I was simply stating the fact that both of the families had to handle significant logistical dilemmas like driving their child 20 plus miles multiple times to have there child make the meetings that were set up. It was stated earlier that the son got in on his own and nothing would stop him and I’m stating that unless a family here was willing to help it would not happen.

Those questions are never asked. I meant that if a parent DID those things for the applicant, s/he was doing the kid a disservice.

ETA: Needing a ride to an interview is not a unbelievable hoop or significant logistical dilemma; many applicants are poor, don’t have driver’s licenses or access to a vehicle, or have other valid reasons for needing help getting someplace and they manage to solve that problem on their own. That is not the type of assistance I was referring to. Your post seemed to imply that something the family was able to do gave their kid some special advantage. A family member not being able to drive a kid to an interview or appointment would not keep a resourceful kid out of the running for an appointment. We did not drive our son anywhere. He used Uber, public transpo, a teacher and his FFR to get where he needed to go as he was 2,500 miles away from home at boarding school during his process. When he was home, he drove himself to his interviews as he was fortunate enough to have a drivers license and access to a vehicle but, if we had driven him, it would not have made any difference in his outcome.

@Publisher makes a great point: the SAs are different animals from the generic “Top Schools”. The important part of that list was calling out Julliard and Caltech. Neither are world class places for Math AND Creative Writing AND Physics AND Economics AND Performance AND Business like an Ivy, but both are miles ahead of the Ivys in their own specialties. The Academies are similar, drawing a particular crowd to a particular goal. Put another way, the Top Schools list looks very different to different people.